Friday, November 19, 2010

Review: Tommy Tune's Steps in Time

Posted By on Fri, Nov 19, 2010 at 5:23 PM

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Tommy Tune, a native of Texas, describes Steps in Time: A Broadway Biography in Song and Dance as a product of his later Catskills years, sandwiched between his stints working on Broadway, in Vegas, and in Hollywood. Indeed, Steps in Time, which played a one-night stand at the Majestic on Thursday, has all the hallmarks of a modest, mostly one-man show: it features a good deal of dancing, a bit of crooning, and a whole lot of reminiscing about Tune’s amazing career as a Tony Award winner in choreography, direction, and acting. Even at 70 years old, Tune clearly has energy and charisma to burn—there’s something awe-inspiring about seeing a septuagenarian still hoofing on stage—and his voice is in good shape. The standards for the evening include George Gershwin, Cy Coleman, and other luminaries who fit Tune’s classical, sophisticated style; the talented Manhattan Rhythm Kings join Tune for occasional song’n’dance numbers, including a strangely affecting down-tempo version of Chopin.

As a biography, Steps in Time is something of a mixed bag: it’s long on show-biz gossip (Carol Channing! Twiggy! Fred Astaire!) but short on personal revelations (coded homosexual references! virtual elision of relationships!). Tune’s caginess about his sexuality reaches its peak/nadir with a weirdly gender-neutral version of “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” here rendered “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your Face.” (My face? Really?) Given that Tune has already given interviews with e.g. The Advocate about his romantic life, why be so coy?

On the other hand, Steps in Time challenged its San Antonio audience with Tune’s high-stepping ode to getting the fuck out of Texas (the program didn’t list the song title, but I’m pretty sure it was something like: “I’m twenty-three years old and getting the fuck out of Texas”). This number elicited a rather subdued response from the Majestic audience, who appeared disconcerted by the notion that anyone would want to leave Texas for any reason whatsoever, much less to Manhattan. I assume this song receives a warmer welcome in Oregon and other socialist states.

So: Steps in Time makes for a lovely evening, full of laughter, tapping, and Tommy Tune’s frighteningly long femurs. (Seriously, if that dancer were actually to “break a leg,” it’d sound like a rifle crack.) Proceeds benefited the Las Casas Foundation, dedicated to scholarships for performing arts students: in today’s economy, that’s definitely a step in the right direction.

--Thomas Jenkins, Current Theater Critic.

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